Nurses, Doctors, EMTs, and other healthcare workers to Mayor: Make Fixing NYC's Damaged Healthcare System Your Top Priority

NEW YORK, November 15, 2012 — Nurses, doctors, EMTs, and other front line healthcare responders to Hurricane Sandy are calling on Mayor Bloomberg to put the city’s unfolding healthcare crisis on the top of his list. They will bring a list of urgent medical needs of New Yorkers to the steps of City Hall tomorrow, Friday, November 16, at 12 noon.

"I went door to door in the Rockaways," said Mary Fitzgerald, RN, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center who volunteered with other nurses. "I have one message to the Mayor: we need you to do everything in your power to get our healthcare infrastructure up and running again. You aren’t doing enough."

Last night Fitzgerald and over 30 volunteers met with representatives from FEMA and the US Department of Health and Human Services, and gave them a list of urgent medical needs. The Federal representatives told the volunteers they cannot do anything to meet those needs without a formal request from the City of New York.

ER physician Marisa Fernandez, MD, is one of those volunteers out on the Rockaways: "We're having to recreate an entire healthcare infrastructure from scratch — everything ranging from assessment and triage of newly housebound individuals, to mobile clinics set up for follow-up, to creating places for short term and long term care, to creating and disseminating information about public health risks."

"We need the mayor's office to step in and provide clinics that are up to standard with the rest of the nation, and help us continue our work to rebuild the healthcare infrastructure on the Rockaways," said Fernandez.

A medic who is helping run a clinic on Coney Island says they need the city's help to re-open clinics and hospitals — like Coney Island Hospital, which the city says won't fully re-open till January: "We're seeing a lot of people who don't have access to their prescriptions. We're seeing a lot of people who have appointments set up to their doctors, but no doctor to see," said Shawn Westfahl. "The city needs to make this their number one priority: getting the local clinics and hospitals back open and at full capacity to be able to provide care for their communities."

The storm badly damaged NYC's healthcare system, and there is currently no Level One Trauma Center below 57th Street in Manhattan. The evacuation of Bellevue, NYU Langone, and Coney Island Hospitals has left some of our city’s most vulnerable patients forced to look elsewhere for care.

Thousands of New Yorkers — in Staten Island, the Rockaways, Coney Island, and beyond — are still stuck in their homes with no heat, no electricity, and urgent, and unattended, medical needs.

Patricia Caridad, RN, is going door to door in Staten Island. She says many patients suffering from asthma can't use their plug-in nebulizers: "There's already a huge asthma population to begin with in Staten Island. All the mold and dust are just making it worse."

"Many people still don't have power, and can't use their nebulizers. We've been asking everyone for a portable, battery-powered nebulizer," said Caridad.

"Here's what I see out in the Rockaways: Pharmacies are closed. People have lost their prescriptions. Doctors' offices aren’t open. People can't leave their homes," said Miriam Rocek, a medic helping coordinate efforts on the peninsula.

"People in the Rockaways need access to asthma meds. To blood pressure meds. To insulin. We're doing our part to get these patients what they need. But there are resources we simply don’t have — and the city can make those resources available," Rocek said.

The press conference is sponsored by the New York State Nurses Association, the New York Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, and Citizen Action New York.

The medical professionals will bring a list of assessed medical needs to the Mayor's office tomorrow — including improved access to medication, help maintaining and expanding the system of field clinics, more coordination for canvassing of people stuck in their homes, and a clear and realistic timeline for re-opening Coney Island and Bellevue Hospitals.

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